ATLANTA — I was going to start my treatise on railfanning with a whimsical anecdote, but they all pretty much sound the same.
Case in point: I was driving down [insert road name here] when I caught a glimpse of [insert train description here]. I pulled out my camera and high-tailed — make that drove judiciously and within all traffic laws — it to a suitable vantage point and let the shutter rip.
I am what you would call a railfan. I go railfanning. Most people offer up a confused look when I mention this. “You’re a what?” I am often asked. “You’re going to do what?”
I’d say look it up in a dictionary, but that doesn’t offer much resolve. “Did you mean tailfin?” is the message I received when I went to Dictionary.com. When all else fails, I turn to Wikipedia, which defines a railfan as “a person interested in a recreational capacity in rail transport.”
I suppose there is no need for a formal definition of the term railfanning. After all, any hobby is what the individual makes of it. I simply enjoy trains — watching them, riding them or learning about their history.
I’ve been asked a number of times how many railfans are there in the country. I have no idea. But, CNN once reported “Trains Magazine, an industry publication, estimates that there are 175,000 U.S. railfans, mostly male baby boomers.”
It’s good to know I’m not alone.